Happy new year from the VRNET team!
We are glad to be back in the office and working towards another great year for VRNET. We will be adding a blog post soon about what we are looking forward to in 2018, but before that, we wanted to discuss the latest arrival in the VRNET office, the Samsung HMD Odyssey, a Windows Mixed Reality headset that can run on various Windows desktops and laptops.
First, a quick note about “mixed reality” – Mixed reality is just Microsoft’s term for Virtual Reality (VR). We are not keen on this tag, as it makes it sound like it could be used for both VR and AR, which is not the case. Oh well… Onto the review.
Samsung HMD Odyssey
Manufacturer – Samsung
Price – $499
Requirements – High end PC/Laptop
The Samsung HMD Odyssey is currently the flagship VR headset in Microsoft’s “Mixed Reality” range. It is similar in price to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and competes well, with some unique features that set it apart from the competition.
The setup of the Samsung Odyssey was a breeze, this was one of the key pros for us, as we are often on the road, showcasing VR to clients and other interested parties. To be able to setup within minutes, without mounting sensors, setting height etc was ideal for our needs. When we are setting up our VR property demos, we often find that architects, property developers and property sales teams can be a little bit overwhelmed with the Vive/Rift setup. The Odyssey, on the other hand, was simple enough that even non technical team members were quickly at home with the system.
The Odyssey has a slightly different headset to big players like Vive and Rift, with a “headband” like system that can be easily tightened to fit your head. We found the headset extremely comfortable and easy to adjust, though it did feel slightly lower quality than the Vive and Rift. It is more than comfortable enough to stay in VR for well over an hour without feeling weighed down.
The image is very good! The resolution is (currently) an industry topping 2880 x 1600, running at 90hz, with a 110 degree field of view. The bump in resolution is noticeable over the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, it is much harder to see individual pixels and the colours seem brighter and more vibrant. Brightness and contrast are good, on par with the other high end headsets. Motion felt smooth and fast, without any of the juddering you can sometimes find on lower spec headsets. Having this extra resolution is very useful within our VR property demos, the models look even more realistic, materials and work surfaces look more detailed and the lighting seems more vibrant and rich.
The built in, adjustable headphones take plenty of inspiration from the Oculus Rift, but offer good quality 3D spatial audio. The headset also has dual, built in microphones. Music and voices sounded clear, with a nice range of tones. We have found that having some subtle music and/or sound effects within our VR property demos helps to create an experience that the client finds enjoyable and relaxing, so having good audio is essential. Also, the inclusion of a built on microphone enables the client to communicate with people that might not be with them, or to take audio notes as they view the property.
The Odyssey’s two hand controllers are good, but don’t offer quite the same functionality or feel as our favoured Oculus Rift controllers, which feel like part of your VR body. They are comfortable and work well though, tracking movement perfectly when your hands are in front of you. We did notice some glitches when moving your hands behind the headset, but not often enough for it to feel like a big problem. The controllers work well in our VR property demos and allow users to move from room to room, rotate and interact with their surroundings with ease.
The Samsung Odyssey works without the need for the mounted sensors that come with the Vive and Rift to create 6DoF. Instead, it uses a multitude of sensors built into the headset (called inside-out tracking) that work out your position in the real world to change your position in VR, for example, in our VR property demos, you can walk around, crouch, look around corners etc, this really adds to the realism of the property viewing. The inside-out tracking works exceptionally well and is no doubt the future of how users are tracked in VR. As mentioned above, it makes setup much quicker and removes the need for hardware sensors. The only downside is that you cannot setup roomscale, which shows you when you are too close to a wall or object. Hopefully this issue is addressed soon, no one likes walking into a wall!
The Samsung Odyssey uses Steam to run VR. This is a tried and trusted software solution, with numerous games and apps (The HTC Vive also uses this platform). You are required to download a special steam app to connect to Steam’s main software platform. It is also worth noting that in normal day to day use, an internet connection is not required to use apps and games that don’t need a connection. For us, this is ideal for showcasing our VR property demos, which do not require a net connection to run.
The Samsung Odyssey requires a high end pc or laptop running Windows 10 with a good quality graphics card. As with all VR systems, the more power you can provide, the better your experience will be.
The Samsung HMD Odyssey is by far the best “mixed reality” offering in the Microsoft range and gives the two flagship headsets (Vive and Rift) a real run for their money. With a higher resolution, built in headphones, inside-out tracking and a good price point, the Odyssey ticks alot of boxes and has become a favourite around the office, and especially on the road, where ease of setup is ideal for us and makes our clients feel instantly comfortable with the technology. For our VRNET property demos, this headset is highly recommended, it gives a great “property viewing” experience for potential clients, while offering ease of use for team members at an affordable price.